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Library Journal Review
Davis (Look Away; An Honorable Defeat) tells the dramatic story of the Texas revolution, nicely integrating newly revealed original source documents from Mexican archives with historical confirmation from well-known secondary sources to provide a thrilling, all-encompassing story of the war. He begins with a solid analysis of the international events and politics leading up to the 1835-36 war and ends with a critique of how the revolution affected Texan identity and U.S. traditions. In the process, he paints a clear portrait of those involved: settlers just one generation removed from the American Revolution, descendants of Latin American revolutionaries, and the fiercely independent native Tejanos. He carefully eschews hagiography in order to present an objective analysis of the many larger-than-life characters known to all American school children, including Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, William Travis, Santa Anna, and of course, Davy Crockett. Davis's work is a timely supplement to Randolph B. Campbell's recent full history of Texas, Gone to Texas, adds more background information than found in Jeff Long's Duel of Eagles, and focuses more intently on the revolutionary era of Texas history than Stephen L. Hardin's Texian Iliad, although all these titles provide value. Highly recommended for all academic libraries and larger public libraries and essential for all libraries in Texas.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
These two books join a growing body of recent work on Texas history that targets general readers as well as scholars. Both titles--the work of writers accomplished in a wide range of historical topics--cover essentially the same time period: Texas from its initial settlement to its independence from Mexico. Davis offers a detailed account of the intricate politics within Texas during the years that led up to the Texas Rebellion, effectively capturing the positions of the various factions as the conflict with Mexico unfolded. He is particularly adept at integrating the Tejano position. An extremely critical assessment of Sam Houston, the "Hero of San Jacinto," depicts him as an indecisive figure rendered ineffective by depression and alcoholism, who absented himself at critical periods and lacked a plan for resisting Mexican advances. Unfortunately, the work is undermined by a number of inconsistencies and errors (Texas was not annexed by treaty in 1845, and Monclova in not located "on the Rio Grande"). In his more traditional approach, Brands focuses on character development, especially Sam Houston, Stephan F. Austin, and Santa Anna, and spends much less time reconstructing Texan political debates. The resulting narrative is more accessible to nonspecialists, but diminishes the Tejano role in the revolution. Brands also devotes more attention to the relationship between Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson, and is less critical of Houston. He acknowledges Houston's absences and reputation as a hard drinker, but does not think they significantly impacted his military leadership. Instead, Brands' Sam Houston is plagued by lack of supplies and support from ineffectual governments, and the difficulty of imposing military discipline on an unruly, inexperienced volunteer army. While neither book radically challenges our understanding of the Texas Revolution, each uses extensive data to present interesting perspectives on the period and its people. ^BSumming Up: Recommended, both titles. All levels/libraries. C. D. Wintz Texas Southern University